‘Messianic Good News’ – what’s in a name?

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ [i.e. the Messiah] (Acts 5:42).

In 1950 John Düring, a Jewish Christian who had fled from Germany to South Africa during the Second World War, founded the Good News Missionary Society to spread the good news (gospel) of Jesus the Messiah among Jews. The society was renamed Messianic Good News in 1999.

The intention in incorporating the term “Messianic” into the name was to qualify what the “good news” is about – i.e. the Good News (gospel) of Jesus the Messiah. The dictionary defines Messianic as being, “of the messiah, inspired by hope or belief in the messiah”. Essentially Messianic has the same meaning as Christian, the only difference being that the one term is derived from the Hebrew word Mashiach, and the other from the Greek equivalent, Christos.

However, the term has increasingly taken on a more specific and narrower meaning and is commonly applied to a particular group of believers, not necessarily Jewish, who have embraced a distinctively Jewish way of life and worship that revolves largely around the old covenant. This includes, in varying degrees, observance of the Sabbath, the feasts, dietary laws and in extreme cases the rite of circumcision. Many who find their identity within the Messianic Movement refuse to be called Christians.

The apostle Paul referred to his previous way of life in Judaism (Gal. 1:13), testifying to how he had persecuted the church out of zeal for the traditions of his fathers. Today many “Messianics” are eager to embrace a way of life in Judaism that was never a part of their ‘previous way of life’. Paul taught: …if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law (Gal. 5:18), but the tendency within the modern Messianic Movement is to try to live a holy life by observing aspects of the Law of Moses, as well as rabbinic traditions associated with the old covenant.

While this may seem to be a matter of personal preference it should be remembered that the interpretation of, and manner in which the old covenant feasts are celebrated today, is derived from rabbinical rulings that were designed to preserve the Jewish religion after its central pillars (land, temple, sacrifices and priesthood) had been forcibly removed. However, Talmudic Judaism, whose rulings are being adopted by the Messianic Movement, is also defined by an emphatic rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Post-temple practices were also designed to preserve the Jews against the threat of assimilation, particularly assimilation into the new religion proclaimed by the followers of Jesus Christ that threatened to absorb everyone into one universal religion, by maintaining barriers to fellowship with Gentiles.

The term “catholic” is another example of a term having come to mean something more specific, or even other, than its original meaning. “Catholic” means “universal,” and in applying the term to the church simply means the universal church of Jesus Christ. However, the term “catholic” is commonly applied to the “Roman Catholic Church,” and excludes those outside of that communion.

Under the old covenant there existed a distinction between Jew and Gentile. A Jew was counted as a member of God’s holy nation by birth and, in the case of males, the mark of circumcision. However, as the apostle Paul taught, sin and disobedience led to all people, whether Jew or Gentile, being cut off from God and all must be reconciled to God in the same way i.e. through the new covenant established through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Everyone must be born again of the Spirit. The apostle Paul wrote of his new faith in Jesus Christ, “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus…” (Gal. 2:15-16). His teaching stressed the fact that Jewish disciples of Christ had become one new assembly together with Gentile disciples who had been reconciled to God through Christ. Speaking of the new covenant, through which the Lord has made one new man from believing Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:15), the apostle Paul taught that: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:28-29).

Jesus said,

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matt. 9:16-17).

In many instances “Messianic Judaism” fails to make a clear distinction between the new and the old covenants and instead makes a distinction between “Messianic Jews” and “Gentile Christians.” This prompted Stan Telchin to write a book entitled, Some Jews say ‘Messianic Judaism is not Christianity’.

It is our intention, as “Messianic Good News,” to proclaim the good news that all men, whether Jew or Gentile, may be reconciled to God through faith in his Anointed King whom God raised from the dead after he made atonement for our sins through the shedding of his blood. The good news is that those who were once considered foreigners to the kingdom of God, together with those who were unfaithful to the covenant made at Mount Sinai (which applies to all Jews), may now be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:6). Whether we call ourselves Messianics or Christians should make no difference.

The term messianic (which means anointed), applies to all who have been anointed with the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus the Anointed King of kings. They are the heirs of all God’s promises made through the Hebrew prophets.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 1:20-22).

And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God (Rom. 2:28-29).

Under the old covenant a Gentile who took upon himself the yoke of the Law of Moses and went through the rite of circumcision became a Jew. How much more does one who believes in the Anointed King from the tribe of Judah and who has been circumcised in the heart by the Holy Spirit, become a “messianic Jew” in the true sense of the term – which, correctly understood is the same as a “Christian” – because Gentile believers are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6).